Persecuted Slovak priest dies of lung cancer

WikiAnton Srholec

A popular Slovak Roman Catholic priest who suffered persecution by the communist regime has died of lung cancer.

Anton Srholec, who was jailed for being a Christian and for attempting to go abroad to study, became a symbol of the terrible suffering of the country's persecuted Church. He was a religious priest who belonged to the Salesians of Don Bosco.

A spokesman for the community said: "His life was a symbol of the struggle for faith, freedom and humanity."

Srholec was ordained by Pope Paul VI in 1970. He was refused permission to study theology by communist leaders in the former Czechoslovakia and spent 10 years in prison, serving most of his time in the punishing uranium mines in Jachymov, according to BosNewsLife, a website covering persecuted Christians. While in the mines, he carried on his theology studies in secret.

After the Velvet Revolution, the non-violent end to 41 years of communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989, he concentrated on charity and youth work and created a centre for homeless people in Bratislava. He got involved in Slovakia's Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, became a prolific writer and chaired the Confederation of Political Prisoners of Slovakia. He won many awards.

President of Slovakia Andrej Kiska said the priest made his country a "better and nicer" place. Prime Minister Robert Fico also offered his condolences.